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Intergenerational cooperation: good for workers, good for business

Employers are increasingly tapping into the benefits that active age management practices such as intergenerational cooperation can bring, not only to bridge the gap between young and older workers but also to increase the overall knowledge within their organisations.


With birth rates in decline, fewer young people entering the labour market and an ageing population, age management is becoming an increasingly pressing concern in the EU. However, some employers are not yet taking full advantage of the experience and skills already inside their firms.

Intergenerational exchange is a cost-effective and efficient way of transferring knowledge to safeguard against the loss of skills from retirements or staff departures. Mentoring programmes have long been used to help train young workers. These programmes also give older workers the feeling that they are valued and can contribute to increasing motivation in the workplace.

These sharing experiences are also a great way of raising health awareness. At the Vuggestuen Kernehuset kindergarten in Denmark, combined with measures to prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and retain older employers, younger colleagues were coached by older workers in being more health-conscious with the aim of achieving more sustainable working conditions for all.

Less frequently mentioned is the knowledge and abilities that young workers can bring to an organisation. Young workers often have different skill sets, usually including a better understanding of IT and technology. This knowledge can then be used to help older workers upskill.

Within the film “Napo in…back to a healthy future” the scene ‘shared experience’ demonstrates perfectly how knowledge transfer can go in both directions, in this case thanks to the experience of an older worker and a younger workers’ tech-savvy. Nevertheless, such exchanges from young to older workers are not so common and more needs to be done to encourage employers to harness the talents of their young workers. If you have come across any good examples, we’d like to hear about them!

Intergenerational engagement also plays a key role in succession planning, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises and micro-businesses when their owner/manager retires. Good succession planning foresees the time for potential successors to be identified, trained, and be given the opportunity to shadow the retiring worker in the period leading up to their exit.

Manufacturing company Berner LTD in Finland introduced its ‘senior programme’ in 2010 with a plan for inducting potential successors to managerial roles, arranging mentoring and tutoring of younger workers to ensure knowledge transfer, and training managers in general age management skills.

While knowledge transfer and succession planning can contribute to successfully managing demographic change, a holistic approach is needed to also raise awareness, promote age positive recruitment measures, and support flexible working to facilitate active ageing.

You can find out more about age management, make use of practical tools and read case studies by visiting the Healthy Workplaces for All Ages campaign website.

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